Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Watch Out!

Looking for snakes . . .

It’s something I do every day, especially every morning when I first walk out the door, and every evening when I return from fishing or working outside, more especially on rainy days when heaven’s goodness drives the serpents to dry ground.

Looking for snakes. It’s a necessary trade off for living in a beautifully natural setting. I’ve killed over a dozen snakes, perhaps two dozen, over the last five years, seven in one day, mostly venomous copperheads.

I usually awake long before dawn and take my first stab at writing. Two cups of coffee (really two half cups) is my limit, and then at a stopping point I break to wake my puppy and take him outside. Before I do, though, I fill his bowls with water and food, and then turn on the back porch light. Before I step out the door, I always look down and from side to side. Usually I think to myself, "I hope I don’t forget to do this." The son of the previous owner had forgotten to look down and felt the strike, copperhead fangs to the ankle. I look down and from side to side, and then I walk the deck to be sure that some coiled and sleeping serpent has not made himself at home on my property or in my path. A strike would kill the dog and maybe me, at least make me very sick.

Every time I walk to the boathouse I carry a rake or a machete, sometimes my short-barrel shotgun, and always my pistol. I scan everything everywhere. I have killed several snakes on my deck steps. Walking down it’s difficult to see the serpent just beneath the lip of the next step; he's seldom there, but sometimes he is; you wouldn’t want to step on him.

Friday evening as I returned from fishing, I followed my pattern. "Shadow," I said to my little dog, "We have to watch for snakes." My two-million candlepower Q-beam scowered the yard, the flower beds, and every rising step. Nothing tonight, nothing, that is, until I reached my back porch. There, uncoiled but not straight, crooked and still, lay the villain lounging in the dusky light. I commanded my dog, "Shadow, stop! Stay!" I gently lay down my shotgun (I couldn’t shoot my porch, pooch, and living room) and coyly walked past the snake to the hard rake. Carefully and quietly I seized it, flipping the teeth upward and the straight bar downward. I lifted the rake with both hands and then swung downward with all my might. The first blow seldom kills the snake, just numbs it, or, worse, misses and agitates the snake. This time I did some damage to his spine. Second blow–I almost severed the head at three inches and deadly to the mark. Even dead snakes wiggle and writhe and always give me the heebie-jeebies. And he was a big one, about three feet long.

My heart is always in my throat when I kill a snake, I always sweat, and my heart-rate always increases. I also always experience a degree of anger and hatred toward the slithery thing. I turned the rake teeth downward, lifted the limp torso with the tendon-strung head, and said, "Turtle food." An epithet for the snake might have crossed my mind as well.

Snakes are everywhere. No, not those kinds of snakes, but the deadlier kind. The kind that slither into the soul and strike at the mind, will, and heart.

How alert are you? Are you careful or careless, watchful or naive, well prepared or passively unaware, empty-handed or adequately armed?

Snakes love the twilight, not the noonday, the gray day, not the bright.

Carry a Light, a familiar Weapon, and . . .

Watch your step!


Beau Morgan said...

As an 8 year old living in rural Overton, Texas, I vividly remember the morning my younger brother and I opened our garage door to find a big copperhead who had been coiled against the door to our great surprise. Swiftly, our dad made an end to his existence that morning, yet the terrifying image remains.

An absurd thought occured to me after considering your post--what if rather than growing watchful and wise, heeding to the fear within, disdaining snakes, instead, you tried to become their friend? Rather than alertly attacking them at first sight, you tried to charm them, perhaps even attempting to pick them up in order to more closely know them, curious to learn more of their ways, interested to test your "skill" and resolve in living more peaceably with snakes. Could you ever possibly engage in such an undertaking without being struck and harmed? Given such a consequence, do you think you might ever try and test this theory more than once, much less time after time, day after day?

If man be not totally depraved, he must be totally absurd--the scars and after-effect of the venom attest that it is so.

Hippie Fringe said...

I guess there is no question of you becoming a Pentecostal or joining a serpent cult.

Hate em too. The only thing scarier would be if they still had legs. Although I do not recommend the G. Gordon Liddy approach, I can say with some authority that eating rattlesnake steaks may make you look at them differently.